TV column for Sunday, Jan. 29


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Mercy Street” and “Victoria,” 8 and 9 p.m., PBS.

Life has been tense
for the Greens. They're Confederates, but their Virginia mansion has
become a Union hospital. In this strong hour, their daughter schemes
to seduce a Union officer and steal secrets.

There are some dark
moments ... so you'll welcome the buoyant “Victoria” episode that
follows. The teen queen may, reluctantly, be ready to marry ... but
considers the prospects to be dolts. Stick with both hours; “Mercy”
ends fiercely, “Victoria” ends joyously.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
Miss Universe pageant, 7-10 p.m., Fox.

A year ago, Steve
Harvey became the Bill Buckner of beauty pageants – making a huge
error at a crucial time: He announced that Miss Guatemala had won ...
then found it was really Miss Philippines.

The crown was
shifted, Harvey was apologetic ... and now he's back to host anew.
This time, the pageant will be in the Philippines ... home of the
winner who was almost a loser.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” 2 p.m., MeTV.

The show's pilot
film has possibly the best scenes in TV comedy history -- Mary's job
interview with Lou Grant, who proclaims, “I hate spunk.” That
launches a three-hour marathon in honor of Moore, who died Tuesday at
80. The “Chucky the Clown” episode is at 3:30 p.m., with the
finale at 4:30.

MeTV is on satellite
and cable and -- in most markets – on the digital sub-station of
local stations. To find it, check www.metv.com/wheretowatch
and insert your zip code.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II:Screen Actors Guild awards, 8 and 10 p.m., TNT; 8 p.m.
ET, TBS.

There will be plenty
of TV awards tonight, including a career one for Lily Tomlin. Still,
much of the attention will be in the movie categories, which suggest
who's ahead in the Academy Award race.

The SAG and Oscar
lists of best-actor nominations are identical -- Ryan Gosling, Casey
Affleck, Denzel Washington, Andrew Garfield, Viggo Mortensen. The
lists share three best-actress nominees (Meryl Streep, Emma Stone,
Natalie Portman) and nine of the 10 people in supporting categories.

Other choices
include:

“Black Sails,”
11:40 a.m., Starz. First, here's the third season of this epic pirate
series. Then the fourth begins powerfully at 9 p.m. (rerunning at 10
and 11), as people develop in the pre-“Treasure Island” era. John
Silver is live up to his “Long John” reputation ... Edward Teach
is heading toward his “Blackbeard” image ... and the pirate
island of Nassau is wobbling under civilized English rule.

“Tristan und
Isolde,” noon, PBS (check local listings). Grab some popcorn and
settle in for four-and-a-half hours of Wagnerian shock and awe. The
Metropolitan Opera season-opener stars Stuart Skelton, who was
Siegmund in the Met's “Ring” cycle, and Nina Stemme.

“To Tell the
Truth,” 8 and 9 p.m., ABC. Did you ever want to meet the guy who
played Barney the dinosaur? Or the one who holds the record for
longest distance in a wing suit? Or the twins who have a restaurant
staffed only by twins? You can tonight ... but they'll be alongside
some imposters.

Pro Bowl, 8 p.m. ET,
ESPN. Football's best players – some of them, anyway – collide in
Florida. Lots of players dropped out because of injuries or because
they're headed to the Super Bowl. That still leaves plenty of top
quarterbacks – Drew Brees, Dak Prescott and Kirk Cousins for the
NFC, Alex Smith, Andy Dalton and Ben Roethlisberger for the AFC.

“Love By the 10th
Date,” 8-10 p.m., Lifetime. If you missed this film Saturday, catch
a quick rerun now. Eyeing the modern dating scene, it's sometimes
contrived, sometimes quite adult, but usually bright, clever and
likable.

“Madam Secretary,”
9 p.m., CBS. As Jay pushes for a peace treaty between Iran and
Israel, the work strains his marriage. Also, the murder of a peace
advocate endangers the plan.

“Elementary,” 10
p.m., CBS. Here's a variation on a familiar plot: A gunman takes
hostages, demanding that Sherlock find his son's killer in 16 hours.

“Conviction,” 10
p.m., ABC. The final show of the season – and, presumably, the
final one ever – has Hayes revisiting a case. She scrambles for a
way to free someone convicted 10 years ago.

 

TV column for Saturday, Jan. 28


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Love By the 10th Date,” 8-10 p.m., Lifetime.

For the second
straight week, Lifetime has a strong movie to fill the Saturday void.
Last week had tears and songs with the “Beaches” remake; tonight
finds fun in the modern datiung scene.

Gabby (Meagan Good)
is an artist with talent, a good magazine job, great friends ... and
no romance. Guys don't know they're in love until the 10th
date, she's told; she's never made it to No. 10. Now she and a friend
aim to reach 10; one friend (Kelly Rowland) interviews an elusive
reggae star, another has complications in an open marriage. Sometimes
contrived and often adult, this is bright and well-played.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
Sports overload, ABC, Fox and cable.

We expect sports to
be big on cable Saturdays; tonight, the ESPN networks have college
basketball and NBC Sports Network has pro hockey's all-star weekend.
But beyond that, the big networks jump in.

On Fox, it's
“ultimate fighting” at 8 p.m. ET. On ABC, it's pro basketball,
with a preview at 8 p.m. ET and the game at 8:30. The Golden State
Warriors – with Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and the
best record in the pros – host the Los Angeles Clippers, with Chris
Paul and a 30-16 record.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Dirty Dancing” (1987), 6 p.m. and midnight, Bravo;
and/or “Saturday Night Fever” (1977), 8 and 10:30 p.m., AMC.

Few films have
managed to skillfully blend dance, music and emotion. Here are two of
the best.

First, Jennifer Grey
is a teen who meets a dance instructor (Patrick Swayze) in the
Catskills; as the song says, she has the time of her life. Then John
Travolta is a tough-but-earnest Brooklyn guy who conquers the disco
world, to a throbbing BeeGees beat.

Other choices
include:

“Star Wars: The
Force Awakens” (2015), 6:40 p.m., Starz. Here's a dandy
double-feature: This strong (if flawed) adventure leads into the
terrific “Ghostbusters” remake (2016) at 9 p.m. For more fun, try
two Meryl Streep films -- “The Devil Wears Prada” (2006), at 7
and 9:30 p.m. on E, “Julie & Julia” (2009) at 8 p.m. on Pop.

“Ransom,” 8
p.m., CBS. Enrico Colantoni guests in this show from his native
Canada. He has kidnapped an engineer who designs key software. As
negotiators try to deal with him, someone else is intercepting the
emails and sabotaging the process.

“The Nice Guys”
(2016), 8 p.m., HBO. While Ryan Gosling gathers well-deserved praise
and awards for “La La Land,” catch his previous film. Its story
is a bit goofy, but the pairing is a delight: Gosling plays an
underskilled private-eye, paired with a tough and grim Russell Crowe.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 9 p.m., CBS. This rerun finds Christmastime problems,
small (the “secret Santa” gifts) and large: Dr. Wade's adopted
son is a suspect, after holiday burglaries turn deadly.

“Where Are They
Now?” 10 p.m., Oprah Winfrey Network. After a two-month break, this
show returns with more catch-ups. There's Phylicia Rashad, who soared
in “The Cosby Show,” then did key Broadway revivals and won a
Tony. And singer Jon Secada. And Lindsey Stirling, who drew fame a
decade ago at 20, when she used YouTube to show her blend of
electronic violin and dance.

“10th
Date: Girls Night In,” 10:02 p.m., Lifetime. The actors in the
“10th Date” movie discuss their own dating adventures,
good and bad.

“Saturday Night
Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. This reruns the Nov. 19 episode, with
Kristen Wiig hosting and The XX as music guests.

TV column for Friday, Jan. 27


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Landmarks Live,” 9 p.m., PBS.

Leaping around the
music universe, this new series puts popular performers in logical
settings. The opener had Alicia Keys in New York; summer will have
six concerts, starting with Andrea Bocelli in Italy. And tonight,
it's Brad Paisley with an outdoor concert in his native West
Virginia.

Paisley is your
all-purpose country star. He can be funny one moment -- “Alcohol,”
“Celebrity,” “Online,” “The Fishin' Song” -- and deeply
emotional the next, from “Whiskey Lullaby” to “Welcolme to the
Future.” He's had three Grammys, 14 Country Music Association
awards and a lot to sing about.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” 9 p.m., CW.

What happens if two
colleagues suddenly have a long kiss in a stalled elevator? Rebecca
takes the Rebecca-ish route – she moves up her wedding date with
Josh and throws herself into frantic activity. Her boss takes a
different approach – obsessing on a “cleansing” drink that
mostly has him pass gas.

This creates lots of
room for sight gags, some of them rather childish. But as Rebecca
swirls about – simultaneously the bride, maid-of-honor, wedding
planner and more – we do get some funny chaos.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Z: The Beginning of Everything” debut, any time,
Amazon.

Zelda Sayre had just
turned 18, a judge's daughter in Montgomery, Ala. She drank, danced,
smoked, flirted, savored attention; still, she also savored words and
books and ideas. F. Scott Fitzgerald was 21, a Princeton drop-out
from Minnesota; an Army lieutenant, he vowed to be a great writer.

Their romance and
marriage would both nourish his career and sabotage it. We know that
the story will end with alcoholism, drugs and schizophrenia. Still,
the early phase – played by David Hoflin and a chaming Christina
Ricci – is great fun to watch.

Other choices
include:

“MacGyver,” 8
p.m., CBS. A night of reruns begins with the U.S. embassy in Latvia
being overrun; fortunately, Mac has a chisel and a matchbook. Also,
his friend (Justin Hires) finally knows his secrets.

“Last Man
Standing,” 8 p.m., ABC. Mike (Tim Allen) wishes his two sons-in-law
knew how to fix things; his solution is to pit them against each
other. Meanwhile, his youngest daughter is unsettled when her
boyfriend says he loves her.

“Dr. Ken,” 8:31
p.m., ABC. Ken's diagnosis could keep a high school basketball star
from playing in the big game. Meanwhile, Pat shows Ken's wife his
secret coffeemaker.

“Sleepy Hollow,”
9 p.m., Fox. There's a monster (not an elected one) in Washington,
D.C.

“Emerald City,”
9 p.m., NBC. Last week, Dorothy risked everything to save a little
girl. The kid and Lucas got free, but Dortohy's been captured by the
vengeful West. That sets up this hour, which pushes TV's obsession
with torture ... but leads to a key meeting at the end of the hour.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. In last year's Valentine's Day episode, a double murder
(linked to marital infidelity) leads people to recall their past
valentine misadventures;

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. This year's season-opener found Danny in deep trouble:
A lawyer (Michael Implerioli) had new evidence against him in the
shooting of a serial killer.

TV column for Thursday, Jan. 26


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“How to Get Away With Murder” return, 10 p.m., ABC.

When we first met
Annalise, she ruled the classroom and the courtroom with fierce
confidence. It was precision, Emmy-winning work for Viola Davis.

And now,
two-and-a-half seasons later? In jail, awaiting charges for arson and
murder, she's shattered; Davis is perfect again. Alongside that are
sunny flashbacks, plus the start of the case. This should take up the
season's final six episodes, so settle in for a long, bitter and
well-acted ride.

TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Scandal” season-opener, 9 p.m., ABC.

Life has been tough
for this show's intense fans. After an eight-month break, due to
Kerry Washington's pregnancy, “Scandal” was set for last week ...
then delayed again, with no logical explanation. That second delay
makes sense when you see this episode -- which is a fairly good one,
in its own odd way.

It starts on
election night, with the results still wobbling. From there, the plot
twists keep growing to an operatic (well, soap-operatic) extreme.
This is a big, brash hour, including some plot twists that are
borderline absurd ... but that's sort of what fans have been
semi-patiently waiting for.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Riverdale” debut, 9 p.m., CW.

The Archie Andrews
in old comics was a sweet chap at the soda shop. The one in the
“Archies” cartoon had an intellect that never surpassed the
lyrics to “Sugar Sugar.” Neither would recognize this Archie.

He's an immensely
handsome guy who has a secret lover ... and a secret about a murder
... and a tiff with Jughead ... and now a triangle. He's loved by the
girl next door (Betty) and the new girl in town (Veronica), a beauty
whose family was once rich and is now disgraced. Some scenes –
Archie and the secret lover, anyone and the mean girl – are
wretched; the rest offer Archie 2.0, strongly told.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Grey's Anatomy” return, 8 p.m., ABC.

Here is a bold move:
Returning from a two-month break, the show has an episode that
doesn't include the hospital or (except for narration) its top star.
Instead, it sends Jo, Arizona and a reluctant Bailey to a prison
hospital, where a teen will soon face a complicated childbirth.

For viewers and for
the characters, this is a wrenching hour. There's depth to each
person, especially the teen, played with agonizing complexity by
relative newcomer Anna Jacoby-Heron.

Other choices
include:

“The New Edition
Story,” 5-11 p.m., BET. If you missed the first two chapters –
with Boston teens forming a pop group – catch them at 5 and 7. The
finale (9 p.m., rerunning at 11) starts with soaring success for the
group and for ex-member Bobby Brown. Then come the complications.

“Superstore,” 8
and 8:30 p.m., NBC. Next week, this will resume its new episodes. For
now, one rerun focuses on drug-testing, another on dog-adoption day
and both include the adventures of Cheyenne, the teen mom. In one,
she keeps talking about the baby; in the other, she fights with the
dad.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. In a terrific rerun, a flood in Amy's
apartment gives her the chance she's wanted – to move in with
Sheldon, her boyfriend and (once-a-year) lover.

Mom,” 8:31
p.m., CBS. Christy tries to be the AA sponsor of a hunky newcomer
(Joe Manganiello), but is way too atracted to him. That part is
fairly funny, but some of the best moments come when her mom attends
an upscale charity gala with Jill. 

“My Kitchen
Rules,” 9 p.m., Fox. So far, four of the five duos have cooked for
this mobile dinner party. Now Andrew Dice Clay and his wife Valerie
have their turn; then the two duos with the lowest scores have a
sudden-elimination cook-off.

 

“Mary Tyler Moore:
Love Is All Around You,” 9-10 p.m., CBS. In a late switch, CBS is
inserting this special about Moore, who died Tuesday at 80. The first
“golden age of comedy,” as it was later called, was propelled by
the shows she starred in (“Dick Van Duke Show” and “Mary
Tyler Moore Show”) and the company she co-owned (MTM).

“The Blacklist,”
10 p.m., NBC. In a rerun of the season's second episode, Red needs
help from Tom and the task force, to trace someone who may know where
Alexander Kirk is.

TV column for Wednesday, Jan. 25


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Frequency” finale, 9 p.m., CW.

Even in this
high-tech, communication-soaked world, Raimy (Peyton List) has a
unique situation: She can talk by ham radio to a father (Riley Smith)
who died 30 years ago. She's a young cop; he was a cop, wrongly
believed to be crooked. Crossing the time barrier, they can change
lives for good or bad.

Based on a 2000
movie, this is a well-made show that never quite caught on. Now it's
wrapping up its first season (“The 100” returns next week), which
will probably be its only one. We hate to see it go, but CW promises
key developments: Raimy makes a stunning discovery and truths are
revealed.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “The Magicians” season-opener, 9 p.m., Syfy, rerunning at
11:40.

The first season got
a bit grim. Obsessed with Fillory, the fictional world in his boyhood
books, Quentin was often bitter at a college for magicians; Julia,
his childhood friend, was more bitter about not getting in. She made
a deal with the Beast ... while Quentin and classmates were almost
killed.

Now Julia is still
dealing with the Beast, but the others find a welcome change-of-pace.
They're inside Fillory, where Eliot will be king and the others will
be royalty. It's gorgeous, with surprising bursts of humor. “We all
may look whimsical,” one woman says ... but this is an ominous sort
of whimsy.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Alzheimer's: Every Minute Counts,” 10 p.m., PBS.

The numbers offered
here are jolting: Right now, five million Americans have Alzheimer's
disease; by 2050, that number is expected to reach 14 million ...
with the expense topping the Defense budget.

Nationally, 80 drug
studies continue, but funding is far below other ailments. Locally,
aid to victims varies state-by-state. In Florida, we see a man
overwhelmed by the cost ($4,000 to $6,000 a month) at a home for his
mother; in New Hampshire – trying to exist without most taxes –
there's been a 20-year moratorium on nursing-home construction. No
quick solution seems apparent.

Other choices
include:

“The New Edition
Story,” 7 and 9 p.m., BET. Monday's buoyant opener (rerunning at 7
p.m.) saw five optimistic teens start a pop group in Boston. They had
hits, but no money; they fired one manager, switched labels, remained
broke. Tonight, the second album prospers, but tensions rise. Ralph
Tresvant soars as the lead singer; Bobby Brown gets increasingly
eccentric, leading to Thursday's finale.

“Hunted,” 8-10
p.m., CBS. In its Sunday debut, this reality show set up its
high-tech high-and-seek: Nine duos try to disappear, sought by
detectives and a command center. Now the show settles into its
regular slot; one duo goes off the grid and another concocts a way to
communicate with loved ones.

“Lethal Weapon,”
8 p.m., Fox. Someone has been attacking people who all belong to the
same church. Meanwhile, Riggs spirals downward on the first
anniversary of his wife's death.

“Star,” 9 p.m.,
Fox. Merely getting into the Atlanta music festival wasn't enough, it
seems.Tonight, the three young women see how strong the competition
is; they rush to revamp their style. Meanwhile, Simone finds music
tapes made by her late mother; Carlotta (Queen Latifah) wants to
avoid them.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. Jay's club remains his one refuge; in this rerun, Phil
may join it.

“Code Black,” 10
p.m., CBS. For Dr. Mario Savetti, it's a long day. After a double
shift, he follows Col. Willis (Rob Lowe) to a construction site,
where brothers are trapped on a crane, 300 feet high.

“Man Seeking
Woman,” 10:30 p.m., FXX. Who thought life would be easier when Josh
finally had a girlfriend? Tonight, she fumes because he gets along
with her parents. That follows “It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia”
(10 p.m.), in which the gang's Wolf Cola faces a publicity nightmare.